Belfast Telegraph

Robbie Keane gripped by injury fears as Jon Walters sweats on fitness

By Daniel McDonnell

Jon Walters is the latest Republic of Ireland striker to be affected by calf problems, with captain Robbie Keane confessing that he initially expected to miss the tournament when he was struck down last Saturday.

Walters received a kick to his calf on Wednesday and didn't train with the rest of the group in Fota yesterday, instead leaving the session early to go and work in the gym with the medical staff.

His problem is minor compared to Keane, who is in no position to train at the moment and told the FAI's website yesterday that he thought he would be out for more than a fortnight when he picked up the setback.

"I thought it was going to be a lot longer but they're saying a couple of weeks, which would maybe get me (back) for the Sweden game, or if I miss that one I would definitely be ready for the second game," said Keane.

"It's bad news but it could have been a lot worse. It's never nice when you get injured, particularly at this stage because of the European Championships."

Under Martin O'Neill, preparations appear to have been slightly more relaxed than four years ago, when then manager Giovanni Trapattoni had his players in camp in Dublin and Montecatini before a final warm-up game in Hungary on the way to Poland. Keane said: "When you are away from your family and you are with the team for a long period of time, sometimes it can be frustrating, it can get boring if players are not playing.

"But one thing I would say about this group is that we have a great team spirit that keeps the lads together and I think that will stand us in good stead going forward.

"It's certainly something that I'm looking forward to. I've been involved in a couple before, but there seems to be a great togetherness between everybody, not just the players, but the coaching staff, the backroom staff and everybody. People under-estimate that. Certainly from the outside, they think it's about the players and they only see the players who are on the field and the players who are on the bench that get involved.

"But it's way bigger than that, it's about everybody that's involved because everybody keeps everybody together."

Daryl Murphy is the other member of the Republic's forward contingent who has been compromised by a calf complaint.

While the 33-year-old has now returned to fitness, his lack of match sharpness was evident in the 2-1 loss to Belarus. Assistant manager Roy Keane was critical of several individual performances in that game but has subsequently claimed that some of his comments were intended to be tongue in cheek. "It's nice to have a little setback to remind you of the hard work ahead," he said.

The Republic squad will hold their final training session at Fota Island today before travelling to Dublin where the players will be given time off until Sunday evening.

• Several managerial appointments were confirmed yesterday with Roberto Di Matteo taking charge at Aston Villa, while Garry Monk stepped into the Leeds United hotseat.

Nigel Pearson is targeting a return to the Premier League now he is back in management with Derby County, and Owen Coyle is the new Blackburn Rovers boss.

Belfast Telegraph